A Star for TIME Magazine

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“Cast your vote for the leaders, artists, innovators, icons and heroes that you think are the most influential people in the world”, TIME Magazine urges readers of its online edition. Amongst the 153 nominees: Bashar al-Assad.

“Syrian ruler who tries to cling to control over a nation deeply fissured by civil war.” No mention of the over 70.000 people killed mostly by command of the regime, no mention of the fact that the civil war-like situation arose not before the peaceful protests were struck down.

Prominent Syrian women and men have been shifted into the centre of the international media’s attention in the course of the revolution – in a positive manner, however, rather those who stand up for political changes. Some of them have made it into the Foreign Policy magazine’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers” list. In the 2012 list, activist Rima Dali was voted number 19 together with Bassel Khartabil for her commitment – she founded the “Stop the killing: we want to build a country for all Syrians” campaign, to name but a part of her work. The previous year cartoonist Ali Farzat whose hands had been smashed by henchmen of the regime, together with the human rights lawyer and political activist Razan Zeitouneh, was voted the list’s number one.

Even more astonishing than Assad’s TIME Magazine nomination is the high level of voter participation. A man who in his own country has never allowed for free votes manages to persistently stay in a position between the second and third place – and approval (“Absolutely!”) and refusal (“No Way!”) balance each other out. A success for Syrian propagandists? Or for the Syrian Electronic Army who incessantly roams on behalf of the regime in order to hack disagreeable websites? Many Syrians rather perceive Assad like the Syrian artist group Masasit Mati already depicted him satirically in 2011: as an aspiring star in the TV show “Who Wants to Kill a Million?”



First published in German on the Heinrich von Arabien Blog on April 3, 2013
Translated from the German by Christine Kollmar


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About the Author

Dr. Bente Scheller is director of the hbs Middle East office in Beirut. She specializes in foreign and security policy and holds a PhD of Free University of Berlin on Syria. Before coming to Beirut in 2012, she was head of hbs' Afghanistan office in Kabul.